Judge Halts San Fran |Soda Disclaimer Law

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge granted the beverage industry an injunction pending appeal of a San Francisco law requiring a warning label on ads for sodas and other sugary drinks.
     The American Beverage Association, or ABA, asked U.S. District Judge Edward Chen to bar the city from enforcing an ordinance requiring a label in letters filling 20 percent of ad space: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”
     The law was set to take effect on July 25, and would apply to ads on city billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters and stadiums.
     On Tuesday, Chen walked back his original ruling denying the American Beverage Association’s motion for a preliminary injunction, saying that while he believes he was right in his initial ruling, the Ninth Circuit has yet to decide the whether health warnings compelled by the government are constitutional.
     “There is at least a close question as to whether plaintiffs have raised serious questions on the merits, particularly because the compelled disclosure has a 20% size requirement which is ‘not insubstantial,'” Chen wrote. “There is thus a plausible argument that there are serious questions on the merits and irreparable injury.”
     He added that a postponement of the law’s implementation will likely be “relatively brief” anyway, since the Ninth Circuit will probably decide the appeal on an expedited basis.
     In an emailed statement, ABA spokesperson Fiona Hutton said, “Granting our motion for an injunction pending appellate review means that this discriminatory ordinance will not go into effect next month.
     “We continue to believe that the City of San Francisco’s mandate violates the constitutional rights of a select group,” Hutton said. “It unfairly discriminates against one particular category of products, based on one ingredient found in many other products. We appreciate Judge Chen’s ruling and look forward to presenting our case.”
     On behalf of San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, spokesperson Andrea Guzman said, “Judge Chen recognizes that it is the first in the nation and out of an abundance of caution, wants to give the appellate court a chance to weigh in.”

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